The Great Pet Food Situation of 2013

There are fewer things that I am more passionate about than my cats. I love their sweet little faces to the moon and back, and there is no bridge too far when it comes to providing the best for them. I believe that when someone brings a pet home, they have a responsibility to provide for him or her like a true family member.

Cats

Larz & Bisquie

When I first brought Larz home in April of 2007, I never had a pet before and it would be an understatement to say I had no clue what I was doing. Quickly though, I began reading everything I could get my paws on to learn about cats, their health, their behavior, and what is best for them. I bought them kitty fountains filled with special water, and organic catnip, and health insurance. Soon, I became a cat counselor of sorts for all my friends, colleagues and acquaintances. This is why I mortified to learn that I had been feeding them the kitty equivalent of Taco Bell up until January of this year.

At the recommendation of my veterinarian, whom I trusted, Larz and Bisquie had been on a diet of Fancy Feast since kittenhood. I asked my vet at every six-month check-up, “What should I be feeding my boys? Are you sure that Fance Feast is the best for them?” He always said yes. Looking back, it is odd that I blindly believed this, but I did. I trusted my vet, and I thought as long as they are eating wet food and limited dry, we were golden. According to everything I was reading, a wet diet was the key. He confirmed.

Working in the media, I am exposed everyday to anbundance of company news. I was becoming very wary of commercialized pet products, due to the constant recalls I was seeing week after week. I needed to investigate.

Soon I discovered the truth about pet food. It was comprised of cheap, often unregulated, imported ingredients and filled with grain. Cats are “Obligate Carnivores,” which means they eat only meat by necessity. They do not naturally eat grain, they do not naturally eat vegetables, and their bodies do not tolerate it. It is actually bad for them, and puts strain on their systems. Kidney disease, cancer and obesity is rampant in cats, and I suspect it is the food they are eating, just as it is for humans.

I began doing more and more digging, and I found an independent report that you could purchase for $17.95 that analyzed each brand and variety of pet foods on the market. I immediately whipped out my credit card and got to reading. What I learned was appalling. The woman who runs the site and does all the research states clearly that she makes her own pet food, so that is telling. She gives ratings for overall brands then for each variety, ranging from one to five paws, with five being the highest of quality. I would highly recommend joining her community and paying the $17.95 for access to her report. She depends on the revenues from the subscription payments to continue her work, and thus asks that subscribers do not share her findings. Trust me, it is worth the money.

From this report, I learned that the food I was feeding my own little babes was rated very poorly and the ingredients were not up to the standards I’d set for Larz and Bisquie. However, there are a few brands on the market and available at many pet supplies stores that seemed to measure up. My requirements at that time (early 2013) was that the food was grain-free, made in the U.S.A. and had no imported ingredients. I settled on Wellness brand for canned foods, Fromm’s Family for dry. For several months, we have all been happy, and I was feeling great about the new diet, even if it cost almost three times as much per month. To me, it was worth every penny. I spent most of 2013 evangelizing a grain-free, expensive cat food diet to anyone who had a set of ears, cat or no cat at home.

Fast forward to last night. My friend Erin just adopted a kitten named Luna Sky. Wanting to start young Luna on a high-end diet right out of the gate, Erin followed my lead and got her kitty onto Wellness. Like many a kitten before her, this one was a fussy eater and wouldn’t have it.

Luna Sky, Three Months Old - Picky Eater

Luna Sky, Three Months Old – Picky Eater

 So Erin started reading and researching foods last night and text me one she wanted me to check on. She also sent me this article which is precisely when the wheels fell off my day. Carrageenan is an additive in many foods, human and pet alike, and links are being made to this substance and gastrointestinal problems including cancer! The only C-word that I want anywhere near these dollies is “Catnip” OK? It seemed like Carrageenan was everywhere.

Throughout the course of the day, through our joint research efforts, I came up with my revised list of cat food requirements.

  • Grain-free
  • Chicken, Turkey or Whole Fish as 1st Ingredient
  • Made in USA or Canada with all ingredients sourced herein
  • No Carrageenan
  • BPA-Free Cans/Packaging

With this list carefully cross-referenced to ensure all criteria were met, I made a quick phone call to Pet’s General Store in Lakewood. I am an advocate of patronizing small family-owned businesses, and I have been wanting to check this place out and this was the perfect reason to go. They had two of the brands I wanted to try and the lady enthusiastically offered to order some samples of the third from the manufacturer so we could try it out before buying. Feeding these high-quality foods is an expensive experiment until you get it right, so their willingness to give samples was very much appreciated. You do not get that level of treatment or quality at PetSmart, friends!

The final three to make today’s cut were Fromm Family Duck & Chicken Pate and Chicken, Duck & Salmon Pate; Wellness Healthy Indulgence Chicken, Duck & Shrimp Recipe and Turkey & Duck Recipe; and Stella & Chewy’s Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner (a freeze-dried raw chicken flavor – my cats never had this type before). The Wellness Healthy Indulgence line is Carrageenan-free and comes in a pouch rather than a can, which is why I gave this brand another shot.

Larz Inspecting Haul

I chose all of these foods based on the colors of the packaging rather than the nutritional value.

Erin went to another local and independently owned pet shop in Lakewood called Furry Nation. She also settled on Fromm Family in the can, though she was dissatisfied with this in the end because it only had a four paw rating when five is the highest. This is a work in progress, and there will be more to report as we see how these new foods are adopted by the kitties and how they respond to them. There are a few more brands I’d like to track down and have them sample, so stay tuned. My ultimate goal is going to be to make my own cat food at home, from scratch. I can’t wait to get to cooking!

I will continue to write about this topic because it is important to many, and the more you know, the better you care you can take of your beloved pets.

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